An extraordinary medieval undertaking, the early fourteenth-century Ovide moralisé is the first full-length rendering of Ovid’s Metamorphoses into French; it also gives a series of historical and moralizing interpretations of these tales of scandal and transformation. It swiftly became a vital resource for authors writing in French, and was recorded throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in sumptuously produced, often richly illustrated manuscripts, produced for French and English aristocrats. Françoise Clier-Colombani’s informative study highlights the crucial place of the image in both the composition of the Ovide moralisé and its manuscript tradition. The Ovide moralisé constantly engages in reflection about its practice of interpretation of a pre-Christian text from a medieval Christian perspective; Clier-Colombani deftly analyses the differing approaches taken by illuminators, to reveal their manuscripts as participating in this reflection on translatio. The manuscripts are revealed as dynamic spaces of collaborative and competitive interpretation: most intriguingly, Clier-Colombani discusses the ways in which illustrations in manuscripts whose text does not transmit the Christian allegory of the Ovide moralisé nevertheless refer to that allegory in their illustrations. The book’s first section describes and situates the surviving illustrated manuscripts of the Ovide moralisé, from those with extensive illustrative programmes, to those which contain only one image. In the next two sections, Clier-Colombani traces the ways in which individual manuscripts and manuscript groups propose their own codes and readings through the images they deploy; she sensibly concludes that these readings are not definitive, but open up more possibilities of visualization and interpretation. The last three sections are insightful analyses of the ways in which many manuscript images attempt to visualize the unimaginable: the process of metamorphosis from human into non-human; the passions that provoke them and that they arouse; and the supernatural spaces in which these transformations take place. While scholarship on metamorphosis in medieval literature tends to lament the lack of detailed descriptions of metamorphosis of the kind that Ovid provides with such skill and glee in his poem, Clier-Colombani’s study shows the imagination of medieval visual artists rising to this challenge. Manuscripts Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, Thott 399 and Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 5069 both represent Ovidian characters mid-metamorphosis, freezing the process into an instant of hybridization, but also inviting the spectator’s contemplation of a transformation that takes place through time, and the implications this has for embodiment. Some of these images are reproduced in the colour plates in the centre of the book, giving an indication of the diversity of the styles and approaches represented in the manuscript tradition; Clier-Colombani helpfully directs readers wishing to see more of these entrancing illustrations to the digitized versions of the manuscripts. While the excellent Gallica website of the BnF will satisfy the demands of those who wish to inspect manuscripts held in Paris, other manuscripts are, unfortunately, less accessible. Clier-Colombani’s book is, then, a welcome contribution to scholarship on this monumental late medieval work, and an invitation to other scholars to bring the manuscripts that transmit it to the wider audience it deserves. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for French Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
French Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jul 1, 2018
It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.
Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.
All for just $49/month
Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly
Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.
Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.
Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.
All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.
“Hi guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this resource. Incredible. I really believe you've hit the nail on the head with this site in regards to solving the research-purchase issue.”Daniel C.
“Whoa! It’s like Spotify but for academic articles.”@Phil_Robichaud
“I must say, @deepdyve is a fabulous solution to the independent researcher's problem of #access to #information.”@deepthiw
“My last article couldn't be possible without the platform @deepdyve that makes journal papers cheaper.”@JoseServera